Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bigger is Better

I have a lovely young friend from Japan who is studying English at BYU. It's great every once in a while to catch up with her on the goings-on of this far eastern land and see what amazing things they are kicking our butts in these days. To start off my probing, I had a question ready at hand: "So, how small are those cell phones getting these days? Pretty soon the standard phone package will come with a magnifying glass, huh?" I was trying to be clever, but she didn't even crack a smile. "Well actually, they're getting bigger," she replied, looking at me as if I was nuts (not without reason). Bigger? Could it be true that the Japanese had finally reached a limit they couldn't supercede? Had they resigned to reverting to past trends like the Americans do when we're too lazy to be innovative?

Of course not. What I didn't know then was that what we think of as the function of a cell phone is actually becoming obsolete. We're no longer to be considered high-tech gurus for walking around with chunks of plastic that merely allow us to talk to other people who also own similar chunks of plastic. (Here, a group of Japanese teenagers starts snickering behind me. OK, so it's a fictitious group of teenagers. Nevertheless, I try to defend myself: "But my cell phone can take pictures!" Now the snickers turn into guffaws.) I had to see it with my own two eyes to believe it. Today I had a privileged opportunity to glimpse this nearly unfathomable phenomenon.

My dad came home from work today sporting... are you sitting down?... a BlackBerry (thanks to "big four" accounting firm Ernst & Young). Its sleek frame, impossibly large screen, and keyboard-style touchpad are truly a sight to behold. One look and my PC ran and hid under the sink in shame. Probably because it realized that junior was going to one-up him in emailing capabilities, graphic clarity, and ability to fit into a purse, and throw in some "yo' mama" jokes on top of all that. So I don't actually know how to use this baby yet, but I'm guessing that it has games to disgrace pong (I didn't think it could ever happen!), decodes secret messages in the Pentagon, and makes delicious homemade gnocchi. Whoa.

The BlackBerry may seem at its ripest to us, but to the Japanese it's already rotting away, reeking the putrid stink of yesterday's technology. So try not to fawn too much over the "new" RAZRs in their presence-- you may just take a serious blow to your (and America's) pride.

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